Mixed land use includes agriculture, orchard, parks, a community square and an eco-village on the hillside - illustration courtesy of Kaitlin Kazmierowski
UBC Reports | Vol. 54 | No. 6 | Jun. 5, 2008
UBC Urban Planning Students Design an Eco Community for Proposed Burnaby Site
By Lorraine Chan
UBC students recently pushed the envelope for mixed land use and sustainable design with a project that blends a residential community for seniors with an organic farm on the same site.
Last fall, Wayne Allen Construction challenged students at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) to devise conceptual designs for Willard Park Eco-Community, a proposed 22-acre site in Southeast Burnaby.
The invitation was perfect for his urban design studio students, says SCARP Asst. Prof. Maged Senbel. “They explored the kind of integrated thinking that urban design has to achieve if it’s to tackle the enormous challenges of peak oil, climate change and declining resources.”
Wayne Allen, a contractor, developer and landowner, directed the students to preserve and enhance the agricultural capacity of the flat land, while transfering density to the slope. He also wanted to see the latest in sustainable technology.
The site is situated next to Willard Park, bound by Marine Drive to the north, Marine Way to the south and is less than a kilometer away from the Fraser River.
About half the land is low-lying flat ground within an historical floodplain composed of fertile peat soil. The other half is a steep slope that’s a 10-minute walk from the 22nd Street Sky Train station.
Working in three teams of three, the students proposed different strategies, some advocating a high-rise condo to maximize density, while others opted for a series of low-rise, wood frame residences.
A farmer’s market, restaurant, public education centre for green technology and a town square numbered among the commercial activities to engage the public and make the community a healthy, dynamic place to live.
While the organic farm would be staffed by permanent workers, the seniors could choose to volunteer or work in the community’s commercial enterprises.
The students integrated green features in the construction and heating of the buildings. Green roofs, geothermal and solar heating coupled with rainwater collection would minimize energy consumption.
Large “living machines,” which are biological filtration systems composed of plants in huge vats, would filter both human waste and grey water. That recycled water would irrigate farm crops or flow through the town square fountain.
At the end of term last winter, the design studio culminated in a presentation to Allen and two planners from the City of Burnaby. Allen says he was blown away by the detail and scope of the students’ design concepts, which he has been using to interest potential investors.
“There’s not a person who’s looked at the beautiful and thorough job the students have done and not fallen in love with it,” says Allen.
The students’ designs also caught international attention. SCARP was invited to present its work at Ecocity World Summit 2008, a major conference on sustainable cities held in San Francisco during April.
“The conference was wonderful,” says SCARP student Chani Joseph, who along with Bronwyn Jarvis represented their classmates Jennifer Fix, Brian Gregg, Lang Lang, Sawngjai, Manityakul, Jeff Deby, Kaitlin Kazmierowski and Andrew Merrill.
“We had great feedback on our project,” says Joseph. “And it was really uplifting to see what people are doing all over the world with transportation, housing, urban agriculture and water resources to lessen the ecological impacts of cities.”
In Burnaby, Allen says he has acquired half the acreage he needs to develop Willard Park Eco Community. He is working on assembling the rest.
And while close to Burnaby’s Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR), Allen’s parcels are not protected within the ALR. He faces yet another hurdle in that the site is currently zoned for single-family development and small hobby farms.
Despite these challenges, Allen says the SCARP collaboration was invaluable, helping him to persevere “in doing something very progressive, something that would be a global model.”